Sailors assigned to the air department aboard the aircraft carrier George Washington prepare to raise a Ready-Jet aircraft barricade during a general quarters drill in June. (MCSN Adam K. Thomas / Navy)
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You always suspected as much, but now it's a fact: Sailors on sea duty score higher on their exams and have a better shot at advancing than those on shore.
Based on the spring and fall petty officer advancement cycles in 2008, sailors on sea duty had a better shot at advancing than their shore-based counterparts by 4 to 6 percentage points.
Those results, say officials with the Naval Education and Training Professional Development and Technology Center, show that the exams are relevant to the fleet.
"We used the data from the March and September petty officer exams for 2008," said Jim Hawthorne, head of the Navy Enlisted Advancement System Division at the Pensacola, Fla.-based education center.
"Comparing E-4 through E-6 sailors on shore duty for rotational purposes to those on sea duty, we found that sailors at sea duty commands advanced at a higher rate and generally score better on the test."
Hawthorne said this was the first time in recent memory that officials there have pitted advancement rates for sea and shore. The question was raised by the center's commanding officer, Capt. Katharine Reed, who requested a comparison upon taking command last winter.
"The difference is that sailors are working in their rate eight or more hours a day when they are at sea — they are much more current in a larger number of aspects of their rating than those ashore," Hawthorne said.
Hawthorne said the data won't spur them to do anything differently. Exams are written and graded at NETPDTC.
"What it tells us is we're on the right track with building advancement exams," he said. "This shows us that our exam questions are accurately reflecting the work being done in the fleet," he said.
For years, each rating had an exam writer in residence at NETPDTC. Manpower cuts prompted a new system, in which a panel of senior enlisted experts from each rating is brought to Pensacola every other year to write new exam questions.
The results mean shore-duty sailors must make a conscious effort to study harder to keep up with their underway counterparts.
"Except for those on instructor duty, many on shore duty are working outside their rating or in a smaller portion of their career field as a whole," he said. "Sailors in those situations need to hit the books harder if they expect to score as well."